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Fun Flexing Systems Muscles: Systems Thinking 101

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." It took 40 years for Gene Bellinger to understand what his teacher was trying to communicate to him in high school, but the journey has brought him here, to STIA 2014, with this fundamental question: is a cookie a system? "It took us 600 comments to decide this online," he said. "If you think about it, if you take any part of the cookie away, it doesn't taste the same! The whole is greater than the sum."

But the assembled group isn't stopping at cookies. In the photo above, this team is mapping the consequences of introducing a bird feeder into a backyard ecosystem. There's a lot of laughter and energy in the room as teams start to think about the implications of their intervention. For example, do you really want your backyard overrun with squirrels? "If you run into a situation that appears to have all good outcomes? Worry!" says Gene. Or maybe you like the taste of squirrel?


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